Contents

  1. Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021
  2. SC on Section 433A and Governor’s pardoning power
  3. MHA says steep decline in cross-border firing in J&K
  4. Climate crisis and emissions from India’s dairy sector
  5. New frog species in Western Ghats

Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

Context:

The Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021 was passed in Lok Sabha amid opposition demanding further discussion on the Bill.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Quasi-Judicial Bodies), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021
  2. The Need for the Tribunal Reforms bill
  3. Key Issues with the Bill
  4. Constitutional provisions and mandates regarding Tribunals
  5. Issues with tribunalization

The Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021

  • The Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021 seeks to withdraw and then replace the:
    1. Cinematograph Act,
    2. Copyright Act,
    3. Customs Act,
    4. Patents Act,
    5. Airport Authority of India Act,
    6. Trade Marks Act, and
    7. Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act.
  • The five tribunals which are sought to be abolished by the Bill (and their functions are to be transferred to the existing judicial bodies) are:
    1. Film Certification Appellate Tribunal,
    2. Airports Appellate Tribunal,
    3. Authority for Advanced Rulings,
    4. Intellectual Property Appellate Board and
    5. The Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal.
  • The government said this would reduce another layer of litigation by abolishing tribunals or authorities under various laws.
  • The bill provides for a Search-cum Selection Committee based on whose recommendations the Members of the various tribunals are to be appointed.
  • The members of the committee are:
    1. Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson (with casting vote),
    2. two Secretaries nominated by the Union government,
    3. the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court; and
    4. the Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted (with no voting right).
  • For state tribunals, there will be a separate search committee consisting of the following members:
    1. the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned state, as the Chairman (with a casting vote),
    2. the Chief Secretary of the state government and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the concerned state,
    3. the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired High Court Judge; and
    4. the Secretary or Principal Secretary of the state’s general administrative department (with no voting right).
  • According to the Bill, the Chairperson of a tribunal shall hold office for a term of four years or till he/ she attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. For the members of the tribunal, the term is four years or till he or she attains the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier

The Need for the Tribunal Reforms bill

  • There has been incessant litigation since 1985 by advocate bar associations against the tribunals over serious questions of their independence from the executive.
  • The quality of adjudication has been underwhelming in most cases, the delays have been substantial because the government has struggled to find competent persons willing to accept positions on these tribunals, and litigation has actually become more expensive, as these tribunals added another layer to it.
  • The Government of India began the process of rationalisation of tribunals in 2015.
  • By the Finance Act, 2017, seven tribunals were abolished or merged based on functional similarity and their total number was reduced to 19 from 26.

Key Issues with the Bill

  • The Bill suffers from the same flaws of the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 (“Ordinance”) promulgated by the President in April 2021 which it sought to replace.
  • In July 2021, the Supreme Court in the case of Madras Bar Association v. Union of India had struck down the provisions requiring a minimum age for appointment as chairperson or members as 50 years and prescribing the tenure of four years. It held that such conditions are violative of the principles of separation of powers, independence of judiciary, rule of law and Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  • However, under the proviso to Section 3, the minimum age requirement of 50 years still finds a place in the Bill. Similarly, the tenure for the Chairperson and the members of the tribunal remains four years.
  • Furthermore, Section 3(7) also sought to undo the judgment of the Apex Court which held the provisions related to the recommendation of two names for each post by the Search-cum-Selection Committee and requiring the decision to be taken by the government preferably within three months.

Constitutional provisions and mandates regarding Tribunals

  • The provision for Tribunals was added by the 42nd Constitutional amendment act which added two new articles to the constitution.
  • Article 323-A: of the constitution which empowers the parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for adjudicating the disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of a person appointed to public service of centre, states, local bodies, public corporations and other public authority.
  • Accordingly, the Parliament has enacted Administrative Tribunals Act,1985 which authorizes parliament to establish Centre and state Administrative tribunals (CAT & SATs).
    1. Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT):
      • It was set up in 1985 with the principal bench at Delhi and additional benches in other states (It now has 17 benches, 15 operating at seats of HC’s and 2 in Lucknow and Jaipur.
      • It has original jurisdiction in matters related to recruitment and service of public servants (All India services, central services etc).
      • Its members have a status of High Court judges and are appointed by president.
      • Appeals against the order of CAT lie before the division of High Court after Supreme Court’s Chandra Kumar Judgement.
    2. State administrative tribunals (SAT):
      • Central government can establish state administrative tribunals on request of the state according to Administrative tribunals act of 1985
      • SAT’s enjoy original jurisdiction in relation to the matters of state government employees.
      • Chairman and members are appointed by President in consultation with the governor.
  • Article 323-B: which empowers the parliament and the state legislatures to establish tribunals for adjudication of disputes related to following matters:
    1. Taxation
    2. Foreign exchange, Imports and Exports
    3. Industry and Labour
    4. Land reforms
    5. Ceiling on Urban Property
    6. Elections to parliament and state legislature
    7. Food stuffs
    8. Rent and Tenancy Rights

Issues with tribunalization

  1. Appeal: Administrative tribunals were originally set up to provide specialized justice delivery and to reduce the burden of caseloads on regular courts. However, appeals from tribunals have inevitably managed to enter the mainstream judicial system.
  2. High Pendency: Many tribunals also do not have adequate infrastructure to work smoothly and perform the functions originally envisioned leading to high pendency rates thus proving unfruitful to deliver quick justice.
  3. Appointments: Appointments to tribunals are usually under the control of the executive. Not only does the government identify and appoint the members of the tribunals, but it also determines and makes appropriate staffing hires. This is problematic because often there is a lack of understanding of the staffing requirements in tribunals.
  4. There is a lack of information available on the functioning of tribunals. Websites are routinely non-existent, unresponsive or not updated.
  5. Accessibility is low due to scant geographic availability therefore justice becomes expensive and difficult.
  6. Against the principle of separation of powers: Tribunalisation is seen as encroachment of judicial branch by the government.

-Source: The Hindu


SC on Section 433A and Governor’s pardoning power

Context:

The Supreme Court held that the Governor of a State can pardon prisoners, including death row ones, even before they have served a minimum 14 years of prison sentence.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Union and State Executive)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Section 433A in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  2. President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72
  3. Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161
  4. Types of Pardoning Powers of a Governor
  5. Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President
  6. About the Recent Supreme Court Judgment

Section 433A in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Section 433A deals with the restriction on powers of remission or Commutation in certain cases. Section 433A says that where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence which has death as one of the punishments OR where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted into imprisonment for life – Then such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.

President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72

  • Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.
  • The President cannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government.
  • In several cases, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers while deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994.
  • Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article74 (1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once. If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.

Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161

  • Similar to the Pardoning Power of the President, pardoning power of the Governor grants the following:
    • Pardon
    • Respite
    • Remission
    • Reprieve
    • Commute
  • Article 161: The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

Types of Pardoning Powers of a Governor

Pardon

  • When the Governor pardons, both the sentence and the conviction of the convict completely absolve the sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the punishment by court-martial.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the death sentence which only the Indian President can do.

Respite

  • When the Governor uses his pardoning power of ‘Respite’, he chooses to award a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded to the convict.
  • For example, due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender, the President can use this power.

Reprieve

  • When the Governor chooses the pardoning power of ‘Reprieve’; he stays the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period.
  • By doing this, he enables the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from him.

Remit  

  • When the President chooses the pardoning power of Remit, he acts to reduce the period of the sentence but the character of the sentence remains the same.
  • For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year but the imprisonment remains rigorous.

Commute

  • Governor can commute the punishment or sentence of any person convicted of any offence against a state law or he can commute a death sentence.

Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President

PARDONNING POWER OF THE PRESIDENTPARDONING POWER OF THE GOVERNOR
He can pardon a sentence of the convict given by the court-martial or the military courtGovernor does not have the power to pardon the sentence inflicted by the court-martial on the convict
The President can also pardon the death sentence through commutation or in its entirety.Governor cannot pardon the death sentence even if the said sentence has been prescribed under the state law. However, he can suspend, remit or commute the death sentence by using these pardoning powers.
His pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a Union lawHis pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a state law

Hence, the scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161.

About the Recent Supreme Court Judgment

  • The Supreme Court held that a Governor can pardon the prisoners even before they have completed minimum 14 years of prison sentence.
  • It was also held that a Governor’s power to pardon overrides a provision given under Section 433A of Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code cannot and does not affect the constitutional power of President or Governor to grant pardon under Articles 72 or 161 of Constitution.
  • Since the Governor will have to act on the aid and advice of State Government, it was noted that the sovereign power of Governor to pardon prisoner under Article 161 is exercised by the State government and not the Governor on his own, in reality.

-Source: The Hindu


MHA says steep decline in cross-border firing in J&K

Context:

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), there was a steep decline in cross-border firing by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir till June 2021 compared to the number of ceasefire violations reported in 2020.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About MHA’s statements on ceasefire violations
  2. About 2021 agreements to observe 2003 ceasefire agreements
  3. About the 2003 Ceasefire Agreements
  4. Territorial Disputes between India and Pakistan

About MHA’s statements on ceasefire violations

  • In a written reply to questions from Lok Sabha members, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that only around 650 ceasefire violations were reported till June 2021. Previously, there were more than 2100 cases in 2018, almost 3500 cases in 2019, and over 5100 cases in 2020.
  • Following scheduled talks between the Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan over hotline, a joint statement was issued on February 2021, in which both India and Pakistan agreed to the strict observance of all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the LoC and all other sectors.
  • Several countries have issued statements welcoming the development as an important and positive step…government’s consistent position has been that India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues, if any, bilaterally and peacefully in an atmosphere free of terror, hostility and violence.
  • In response to another query, the MHA informed the Lok Sabha that so far more than 5,000 km of the IB — including 2,000+ kms along the Pakistan border and 3,000+ kms along the Bangladesh border — had been covered by fence.

About 2021 agreements to observe 2003 ceasefire agreements

  • India and Pakistan had agreed to observe the 2003 ceasefire agreements along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors, in 2021.
  • The 2021 joint statement issued by both India and Pakistan employed terms like the resolution of “core issues”, which indicated both coordination at a diplomatic level and high-level political approval.
  • The 2021 agreements came in response to over 5000 instances of Cross Fire Violations (CFVs) along the Line of Control (LoC) and other areas in Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in 46 fatal casualties in 2020.

About the 2003 Ceasefire Agreements

  • The original ceasefire agreement was reached in November 2003, four years after the Kargil War (1999).
  • The 2003 ceasefire agreement remains a milestone as it brought peace along the LoC until 2006. Between 2003 and 2006, not a single bullet was fired by the jawans of India and Pakistan.
  • But since 2006, ceasefire violations have become the norm with increasing frequency.

Territorial Disputes between India and Pakistan

Kashmir

  • Due to political differences between the two countries, the territorial claim of Kashmir has been the subject of wars in 1947, 1965 and a limited conflict in 1999 and frequent ceasefire violations and promotion of rebellion within the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The then princely state remains an area of contention and is divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LoC), which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed post-1947 conflict.

Siachen Glacier

  • Siachen Glacier is located in Northern Ladakh in the Karakoram Range.
  • It is the 5th largest glacier in Karakoram Range and the 2nd largest glacier in the world.
  • Most of the Siachen Glacier is disputed between India and Pakistan.
  • Before 1984, neither of the two countries had any permanent presence on the glacier.
  • Under the Shimla Agreement of 1972, the Siachen was called a barren and useless.
  • This Agreement also did not specify the boundary between India and Pakistan.
  • When India got intelligence that Pakistan was going occupy Siachen Glacier, it launched Operation Meghdoot to reach the glacier first.
  • Following the success of Operation Meghdoot, the Indian Army obtained the area at a higher altitude and Pakistan army getting a much lower altitude.
  • Thus, India has a strategic advantage in this region.
  • Following the 2003 armistice treaty between the two countries, firing and bombardment have ceased in this area, though both the sides have stationed their armies in the region.

Sir Creek

  • Sir Creek is a 96 km tidal estuary on the border of India and Pakistan. The creek, which opens up into the Arabian Sea, divides the Gujarat state of India from the Sindh province of Pakistan.
  • Sir Creek Dispute: The basic cause of the Sir Creek dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh. While the disputed area of Sir Creek involves only a few square miles of land, the land border demarcation has a direct impact on the maritime boundaries of both countries, involving a few hundred square miles of the ocean territory.
  • Pakistan’s Position: Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek, with its eastern bank defined by a “green line” and represented on a 1914 map belongs to it. Accepting Pakistan’s premise on the “green line” would mean loss of about 250 square miles of EEZ for India.
  • India’s Position: India says that the green line is an indicative line and felt the boundary should be defined by the “mid-channel” of the Creek as shown on a map dated 1925. India supports its stance by citing the Thalweg doctrine in international law. It states that river boundaries between two states may be, if the two states agree, divided by the mid- channel. Pakistan maintains that the doctrine is not applicable in this case as it most commonly applies to non-tidal rivers, and Sir Creek is a tidal estuary.

-Source: The Hindu


Climate crisis and emissions from India’s dairy sector

Context:

Agriculture contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions release by cattle and from animal waste.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution, Conservation of Environment, Climate Change), GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dairy Sector and Environmental Damage
  2. Other issues with dairy sector according to activists
  3. Background to the Dairy Sector in India

Dairy Sector and Environmental Damage

  • The three major greenhouse gasses (GHG) emitted from agri-food systems, are methane (CH₄), nitrous oxide (N₂O) and carbon dioxide (CO₂).
  • Agriculture contributes approximately 16% of India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which is released by cattle during dairy farming.
  • Methane from animal waste contributes about 75% of the total GHG emissions of the dairy sector.
  • With this increasing demand for dairy, there is growing pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil.
  • With an increasing demand for dairy, there is growing pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil. Unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as wetlands, and forests.
  • Multinational companies such as Nestle and Danone have been accused of promoting water-intensive dairy industry in Punjab and the neighbouring states, which is fast depleting groundwater.
  • The alarming loss of biodiversity is attributed to water- and energy-intensive crops needed to feed the cattle.

Other issues with dairy sector according to activists

  • Despite guidelines for appropriate handling of cattle, cruel practices continue unabated to boost production efficiencies as demand for dairy and meat continues to grow.
  • Animal exploitation through animal farming, destruction of natural habitats, livestock-associated deforestation, hunting and trading of wildlife are the leading cause of zoonotic diseases caused by germs that spread between animals and humans.
  • Milk and milk products in India are not free from adulteration. A recent Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) report revealed the presence of aflatoxin M1 and hormone residues in them beyond permissible limits through unregulated feed and fodder. This led to a variety of lifestyle diseases in humans.

Background to the Dairy Sector in India

  • Currently, India is the world’s largest milk producer, with 22% of global production.
  • The dairy sector accounts for 4.2% of the national gross domestic product.
  • Dairy sector is the second-largest employment sector after agriculture in India. Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products in India is a major source of livelihood for 150 million dairy farmers.
  • Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products is crucial for food security, poverty alleviation and other social needs in a developing nation like India.
  • India had transitioned from a milk-deficient country to the largest producer of milk globally, thanks to the White Revolution.
  • The White Revolution in India was the brainchild of Dr Verghese Kurein. Under him many important institutions were established like the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).
  • The White Revolution was started by the NDDB in the 1970s and the bedrock of the revolution has been the village milk producers’ cooperatives.
  • Operation Flood (White Revolution) helped dairy farmers direct their own development, placing control of the resources they create in their own hands. It also helped India become the largest producer of milk in the world in 2016-17.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


New frog species in Western Ghats

Context:

Researchers from University of Delhi have named a newly-discovered frog species as Minervarya Pentali.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the new frog species discovered

About the new frog species discovered

  • The new frog species named Minervarya Pentali belongs to the family of Dicroglossidae which comprises of over 200 species of semiaquatic frogs.
  • Minervarya Pentali was discovered from the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, extending along the southwest coast of the Indian Peninsula.
  • This new species is endemic to the southern Western Ghats.
  • This species is also among the smallest known Minervarya (genus) frogs.

-Source: The Hindu

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